With their punishing climate and near-total lack of precious water, deserts are one of the most hostile environments in existence. Those who spend enough time among the desert sands know that some monsters can thrive even in these hellish wastes. Such creatures are feared and respected by wise adventurers, for they are invariably predatory and deadly—a consequence of evolving in a place where the most reliable source of life-giving water is a fresh corpse.
While large predators like the blood snake are rightly feared by desert travelers, most such adventurers agree that insects are the ultimate bane of their existences. There is no type of animal more plentiful among the dunes than these six-legged vermin, and they swarm by the thousands over anything they perceive as food. While some species of desert insect are merely disease-carrying pests, other species are active hunters that are as dangerous as any larger predator in sufficient numbers. Of these predatory insects, none are more feared than the scythe scarab.
Black-shelled, beetle-like insects with wingspans as wide as a human head, scythe scarabs traverse the desert by the thousands in an endless search for fresh blood, a hunt for which they are extremely well-suited. Their acute sense of smell allows them to detect a few drops of spilled blood from over two miles away, making every small wound among a desert expedition a potential catastrophe. After they pick up the scent of blood, they are relentless in their pursuit, flying for up to four consecutive days at full speed without resting.
Scythe scarabs’ main weapons are a pair of bony, curved blades that unfold from their mandibles. They fly at full speed toward their victims with these weapons extended, passing close enough that the blades slice into the target’s flesh. This horrific method of attack can flay a human alive in seconds, and the scarabs’ uncanny agility and flying skills make collisions with the target or each other extremely rare. Only when all of the prey in the immediate area is dead or driven off will the scarabs feed, using proboscises that unfold from between their blades to drink the spilled blood.
Scythe Scarab Swarm CR 6
N Tiny Vermin
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +16
AC 19, touch 17, flat-footed 14 (+4 Dex, +2 size, +2 natural, +1 dodge)
HP 58 (9d8 + 18)
Fort +8, Ref +9, Will +5
Speed 20 ft., fly 50 ft. (perfect)
Melee swarm (2d6)
Special Attacks distraction (DC 16)
Str 2, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 1, Wis 14, Cha 4
Base Attack +6; CMB –; CMD –
Feats Alertness, Dodge, Lightning Reflexes, Mobility, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Fly +16, Perception +16
SQ swarm traits, vermin traits
Environment hot deserts
Organization group (1–5 swarms)
Scythe scarab groups focus their attentions on one target, aiming to bring it down with only one or two attack passes. They repeat this until everything in the immediate area is dead.